Former action star Kara Hui is fighting fit at 55

Kara Hui. -- PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE
Kara Hui. -- PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE
Kara Hui as superhero Black Rose in Incredible Mama, (above). -- PHOTO: CHK
Kara Hui as superhero Black Rose in Incredible Mama, (above). -- PHOTO: CHK

Hong Kong actress and former action star Kara Hui is 55 years young and says she can still kick some serious b***.

"Many of the young ones cannot even catch up with me if they try," she tells Life! in Mandarin in a straightforward manner. "I'm used to doing action sequences and fight choreography, so I'm quicker and more agile than a lot of younger people. I may not have done many action films in recent years, but as soon as I sign on to one, I'll hit the gym and I'm back in form."

Doing the action scenes required of her latest role in Hong Kong TV series Incredible Mama came easy, even if this is her first action role in four years since she starred in Peter Chan's Wu Xia (2011).

The actress, who is single, has more than 40 action movies to her name, including the classic Shaw Brothers gongfu films of the 1970s and 1980s such as Mad Monkey Kung Fu (1979) and My Young Auntie (1981).

If there was a challenge with her newest project, it was having to tackle the show's comedic elements. She says: "I remember I had a scene on the tennis court, but this being an action comedy series, we had to play things up and make all sorts of expressions and wacky movements to make it more funny.

"Doing that for just a single day, I found it felt more exhausting than doing any action stunt."

In the show, which premieres on cHK (Singtel TV Channel 510) tonight, she plays superhero Black Rose, who quits her crime-fighting duties after becoming a housewife and mother to four children.

The role is a nod to the classic movie hero Black Rose, a female Robin Hood- type character who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. She was featured in the films The Black Rose (1965) and Spy With My Face (1966) starring Connie Chan Po Chu.

The character re-surfaces in 1992 in the film 92 Legendary La Rose Noire and in 1997, when Corey Yuen and Jeff Lau made Black Rose II, starring Nancy Sit.

Hui says: "I had so much fun doing this series. There was a lot of improvisation and we would be laughing all the time because we were always trying to make the scene funnier.

"Doing comedies is really hard, even though you're having so much fun. But I think I'm quite a natural at it. People think I can do only action, but I've got a good sense of humour too."

Another reason she enjoyed working on the series is that it is produced by new broadcaster Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV), considered a rival to Hong Kong's main station TVB. Previously, Hui took on supporting roles in TVB productions such as Rosy Business (2009) and A Fistful Of Stances (2010), both of which earned her nominations for Best Supporting Actress at the TVB Anniversary Awards.

HKTV was slated to be a new free-to-air channel in the city, but the government denied it a broadcast licence, so its programmes are available only on the Internet or via digital set-top boxes.

The station, which started airing content in November last year, is also behind acclaimed TV productions such as the drama Hakka Sisters, starring Maggie Cheung Ho Yee, and political drama The Election, starring Lee Sinje. Hui says: "As soon as you watch Incredible Mama, you know this is not a TVB production because it has more of a movie-like quality. Rather than shoot in the studios, we did a lot of location shots and spent a lot of time on each episode.

"At TVB, we could complete a whole episode in two days. But for this show, we took half a year to film nine episodes. I felt so much drive and energy on the set every day from knowing how much effort the producers and crew were putting into the show."

Reportedly, each episode cost HK$1 million (S$174,500) to produce, about three times the HK$300,000 that TVB spends on one episode.

That is why Hui feels compelled to watch TV again. "For the longest time, Hong Kong people could watch only TVB dramas and these series are starting to feel like copycats of one another. Audiences are lucky to also have HKTV now. When viewers get more options, the producers will feel a need to improve production quality to draw eyeballs."

She adds with a chuckle: "I bought a new digital TV just so that I could watch Incredible Mama. That's how good I feel about the series."

yipwy@sph.com.sg

Incredible Mama premieres on cHK (Singtel TV Channel 510) tonight at 10pm.

Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee